Islamic Arts Biennale: Awwal Bait

23.01.2023 – 23.04.2023

In its inaugural edition, the Islamic Arts Biennale brings together centuries of faith and artistic expression. Taking centre stage at the iconic Hajj Terminal of King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, the Biennale celebrates cultural, intellectual, and artistic achievements that trace their origins to the House of Allah, Awwal Bait (“First House”).

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Creative and Curatorial Team

The Islamic Arts Biennale’s Creative and Curatorial Team comprises a multi-disciplinary team, combining the fields of archaeology, architecture, and conservation.
Each member brings to the Biennale their unique experience and perspective in showcasing the meaning and beauty of the two holy cities, Makkah al-Mukarramah and al-Madinah al-Munawwarah, for Muslims around the globe.

Sumayya Vally

Ms Vally is the Artistic Director of this edition of the Islamic Arts Biennale and an architect by profession. She is the co-founder and principal of the award-winning architecture and research practice Counterspace, the recipient of the Serpentine Pavilion 2021 design award. Full Bio

Dr Omniya Abdel Barr

A conservation architect and historian of Islamic art and architecture, Dr Abdel Barr is a Barakat Trust Fellow at the V&A, and Head of Development at the Egyptian Heritage Rescue Foundation. Full Bio

Dr Saad Alrashid

A leading Saudi scholar, and the author of a comprehensive book that chronicles Darb Zubaydah, one of the most important pilgrimage routes across the Arabian Peninsula since the days of early Islam. He also works on archaeological sites across this trail. Full Bio

Dr Julian Raby

From 2002 to 2017, Dr Raby served as Director of the National Museum of Asian Art – Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Prior to that, he lectured on Islamic Art at the University of Oxford for 22 years. Full Bio

The Venue

Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in 1981 and recipient of the 1983 Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the prestigious Hajj Terminal is now home to the world’s first Islamic Arts Biennale. The Biennale is poised to further enrich the Hajj Terminal’s functional and spiritual relevance, transforming it into a hub for celebrating Islamic arts and culture, and fostering Jeddah’s local arts ecosystem throughout the year. This landmark artistic event sprawls over a purpose-built 70,000m2 venue, complete with a theatre, exhibition spaces, workshops, classrooms, as well as retail and dining spaces. Read More

AlMadar: Collections meet Connections

Arabic for ‘the orbit’, AlMadar is a satellite exhibition held in conjunction with the Islamic Arts Biennale, and serves to open doors to future partnerships and collaborations.

Inviting and bringing together institutions and individuals from the Kingdom and all over the world to showcase their collections in a dedicated gallery space, AlMadar aspires to become a global reference and repository for thought-provoking dialogue, and a nexus for the exchange of practices and innovative research around tangible and intangible traditions of arts and culture from the Islamic World.
This year’s edition starts by paying homage to patron Sheikh Nasser Al-Sabah (1948–2020) and celebrates 40 years of the seminal al-Sabah Collection, Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah, Kuwait. Alongside this, objects from around the world are displayed in an unprecedented mingling of institutional collections from Mali, Egypt, Tunisia, Greece, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Oman, and Qatar.
Finally, to embrace the significance of the Biennale taking place at the iconic Hajj Terminal, visitors are invited to explore how the innovative structure came to life—both in its journey from design concept to physical structure, and in its embrace by millions of pilgrims—and why it remains a testament to Saudi Arabia’s dynamic and forward-looking energy.

Participating artists

Igshaan Adams (South Africa)

Leen Ajlan (Saudi Arabia)

Reem Al Faisal (Saudi Arabia)

Adel Al Quraishi (Saudi Arabia)

Nasser Al Salem (Saudi Arabia)

Noura Al Sayeh-Holtrop (Palestine)

Sarah Alabdali (Saudi Arabia)

Rund Alarabi (Sudan)

Nora Alissa (Saudi Arabia)

Moath Alofi (Saudi Arabia)

Farah Behbahani (Kuwait)

Sultan Bin Fahad (Saudi Arabia)

M’barek Bouhchichi (Morocco)

Sarah Brahim (Saudi Arabia)

Bricklab (Saudi Arabia)

Lubna Chowdhary (Tanzania/United Kingdom)

Civil Architecture (Bahrain – Kuwait)

DAL – Digital Arts Lab (Saudi Arabia)

Abdelrahman Elshahed (Egypt)

Alia Farid (Kuwait/Puerto Rico)

Basmah Felemban (Saudi Arabia)

Iheb Guermazi (Tunisia)

Haroon Gunn-Salie (South Africa)

Ziad Jamaleddine / L.E FT Architects (Lebanon)

Idris Khan (United Kingdom)

Yasmeen Lari (Pakistan)

Huda Lutfi (Egypt)

Ahmed Mater (Saudi Arabia)

Haroon Mirza (United Kingdom)

Joseph Namy (United States/Lebanon)

Moataz Nasr (Egypt)

Beya Othmani (Tunisia)

Yazid Oulab (Algeria)

Shahpour Pouyan (Iran)

Kamruzamman Shadin (Bangladesh)

Wael Shawky (Egypt)

Muhannad Shono (Saudi Arabia)

Dima Srouji (Palestine)

Studio Bound (Saudi Arabia)

SYN Architects (Saudi Arabia)

James Webb (South Africa)

Ayman Yossri Daydban (Saudi Arabia)

Ayman Zedani (Saudi Arabia)

Fatiha Zemmouri (Morocco)

Soukaina Aboulaoula (Morocco)